Ari's Picks, Good Food

Roadhouse Special Dinner #241: From the Mission to the Mitten

I can’t remember when I first started dining at Delfina on 18th Street in San Francisco’s Mission District. Could likely be that I was there for the Fancy Food Show sometime in the late ’90s and went down to visit Bi-Rite (one of the country’s best specialty food stores, for sure). I could easily have noticed this cool looking little Italian restaurant next door. I’ve been going back regularly ever since. In fact, my partner Tammie and I just had dinner there in June when I did my ZingTrain class on customer service at the Cheese School of San Francisco. (I’ll be back out there teaching a day of Managing Ourselves in September. Spread the word if you know folks who might be interested!)

In the meantime, we’re bringing some of the best of the Mission District here to the Roadhouse. Craig Stoll, along with his wife, Annie, has owned and run Delfina for all these years now. He is flying this way to cook dinner at the Roadhouse on Tuesday, August 20. I could tell you, very truthfully, that Craig has won a lot of awards; I could tell you that the press regularly sings his praises. In a city where good restaurants can gain fame then flame out a few years later, Delfina remains on Eater’s top 38 list even now, entering its third decade. The restaurant, Eater reports, “continues to embody the Cal-Ital dining that has helped shaped both SF’s dining scene and its Mission neighborhood.” But I’ll also tell you that of all the great places I could eat when I’m in San Francisco, Delfina is always, definitely, on the top of the list. If you’re headed out that way, dine there. If you’re here in Ann Arbor (or anywhere within an hour’s drive) on Tuesday, August 20th and you like tomatoes, sign up soon for the dinner!

What’s on the menu? It starts with a tomato bar—half a dozen different heirloom varietals from Tammie’s Tamchop Farms, all grown organically, all grown from seed, sliced and spread out with some very fine extra virgin olive oil, Tellicherry black pepper in a grinder, some fleur de sel, a bit of vinegar, and slices of the Creamery’s fresh mozzarella. That could be the whole meal, but it’s just the beginning. There’s Craig’s Insalata Caprese, with mozzarella di bufala, basil, and tomato. Smoked Eggplant-stuffed Casoncelli pasta with tomato-basil sauce and a bit of ricotta salata. There’s Wolf Ranch Quail with torpedo onion panzanella. And for dessert, Delfina’s Buttermilk Panna Cotta!

And then there’s my co-adventurer Tammie, who’s growing so many heirloom tomatoes for the dinner. It so happens that when Tammie and I first met, she was working at Bi-Rite, next door to Delfina. All of which takes the dinner’s title— “Special Dinner #241: From the Mission to the Mitten”—to a second layer of meaning. When Tammie first started to visit Ann Arbor, she’d bring California produce with her for us to cook. Now, she’s growing her own! For the last few years, she’s actively engaged in being an organic farmer on a small piece of land behind Cornman Farms in Dexter, called, for her long-standing nickname, Tamchop Farms.

Tammie’s passion for tomatoes in particular (heavily, and happily, influenced by her loving and tomato-growing father and vegan mom), but also peppers—they’ve been on the menu at Miss Kim and the Roadhouse—squash, lemon cucumbers, arugula and more, has manifested in the form of a hoop house filled with nearly 1,000 plants. All are heirlooms, grown solely from seed, organically. I can say from daily first-hand eating experience over the last few weeks that they are excellent! Since nature will ultimately determine which varieties are available on Tuesday the 20th, I can’t guarantee what exactly will be on the table that evening. I can tell you that Tammie is growing Moldovan Green, Garden Peach, Kellogg’s Breakfast, Gold Medal, and Cherokee Purple. At the dinner she’ll wax poetic about each, I’m sure!

Like I said. Tomatoes. Great Italian cooking. Delfina! Tamchop Farms. Tuesday, August 20th.


See you there!